The latest news report out of Italy are stating that Maurizio Sarri will indeed finally takeover the Chelsea bench. The rumors have been circulating for a while, so until Sarri actually puts pen to the paper, nothing is definite. We can, however, begin to look at the current Chelsea squad to decipher which players would fit Sarri’s system.
The news is reporting that not only will Sarri join Chelsea, but so will Jorginho. In a separate article for eurofantasyleague.com, we looked at why Jorginho would be a key signing for Chelsea if they were going forward with Sarri.
In order to understand whether the Chelsea personnel would fit Sarri’s system, we first must look at what he did at Napoli.
In Naples, he played a 4-3-3 that was based off of possession and playing triangles with short passes.
His main starting eleven consisted of Pepe Reina in goal, Elseid Hysaj as right-back, Raul Albiol and Kalidou Koulibaly as his pairing in central defense and Faouzi Ghoulam (when healthy and Mario Rui when Ghoulam was injured) as his left-back. In the midfield the trio of Allan, Jorginho and Marek Hamsik started most games, while Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon was his preferred attacking trio.
Most of the attack came down the left side, as he preferred his left-back to be the one to push up and the right-back played more defensively. Jorginho was the key man, as he controlled the tempo and the play from center midfield.
So how does the current Chelsea squad fit into this sort of style? Well, for starters, if they bring Jorginho along with Sarri it will be a great start. Having the heart of the midfield come along with him to London will help the whole squad get off to a faster start.
Starting from the back, with the goalie, the current goalie Thibaut Courtois does not seem like he can fill the Pepe Reina role for Sarri. Perhaps this is why there are rumors of Chelsea trying to purchase Alisson. Reina was a commander from the back, a vocal leader. He was also great with the ball at his feet, something that Sarri’s teams need because he prefers to play the ball out from the back.
As for the rest of the back four, Davide Zappacosta or Victor Moses should be able to play the more defensive right-back role, while a central defense pairing of Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz could fill in for Albiol and Koulibaly. Cesar Azpilicueta could also play central defense or as a left-back, but since Sarri will revert to a back four, unlike Conte’s back three, he should play mostly as a left-back since he is good with the ball and can get forward. Chelsea also have recently signed Emerson Palmieri who is a strong attacking option at left back.
In the midfield, N’Golo Kante will fill in Allan’s role beautifully. Kante is one of the best ball winners and holders of possession in world football, so this will actually be an upgrade for what Sarri had at Napoli. As mentioned before, if Jorginho officially signs he will be the perfect center midfielder, having already played under Sarri. A Kante-Jorginho partnership would be one of the best duos in the Premier League.
As far as the third midfielder, this could be where Chelsea need another reinforcement. Cesc Fabregas is too immobile at this point to fill the box to box role that Marek Hamsik possessed, and Chelsea don’t really have any other proven midfielder that could fill the role.
In attack, they will not have any problem. Eden Hazard would be the perfect replica of Insigne. The Belgian player could play on the left wing and cut inside, but the beauty of Insigne’s role under Sarri was that he gave him freedom to roam around and be involved in the build-up. That is the same freedom Hazard will have under Sarri and under which he will thrive.
On the opposite side of the attack, Willian and Pedro would be solid replacements for Callejon. The Spaniard had less freedom than Insigne in Naples. It was his duty to track back defensively and he would often make runs inside the box which were met by crosses. Willian and Pedro have the ability to fill this role, but they will need the discipline to do so.
Finally, who could be the Dries Mertens? Chelsea have three solid striking options in Olivier Giroud, Alvaro Morata and Michy Batshuayi. Mertens constant movement is what caused opposing teams many problems. He often tracked back to receive the ball and take part in the build-up. All three of Chelsea’s strikers are capable of this. Giroud has played a similar role for France this summer in the World Cup, as he hasn’t scored yet but has provided good scoring opportunities to others and has held up the play. Morata, especially, could thrive under Sarri if he stays with Chelsea. He did not have a good first season in blue, but a change of coach and change of style could make all of the difference.
After looking through Chelsea’s current team, the change from Conte to Sarri could change their fortunes this season. Not just for the club, but even players like Hazard, Morata and Willian who could thrive under a more attacking and possession based system.
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